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How To Guides, Photo Projects

How to: find inspiration – 21 ideas.

It happens to all of us.  We desire to go out and shoot something, anything..but what? For me, my creativity sometimes just drops off the face of the earth for a few days. I get in a funk that feels like I’ve just been everywhere that’s local to me– nothing jumps out and smacks me in the face to grab my attention.  I refer to these days as brown outs. You know when your power dims for a second but doesn’t go out completely. Frustrating! I’m all in favor of still just “getting out there” because my neighborhood is constantly changing but sometimes it’s just not enough to motivate me.  What better thing to write than a list of ways to inspire your creativity no matter if it’s photography, painting, or any other form of art.

1. Photo Manipulation. Check this site out when you have some extra time. It’s one of my favorites and it’s constantly being updated by users of the community. You might have a photo in mind that you could use already, but why not go out and MAKE one specifically for an idea that you think would be an ingenious fit for one of the tutorials. If you don’t have photoshop then read this post for free software.

2. Read a newspaper or magazine. I love looking reading newspapers, magazines, even advertisements not only to see whats going on in the world, but for ins-spi-ration. The local newspaper lists events in your area that you may want to go out and photograph or find an idea for your next creation. If it’s an event there are bound to be people and what a better way to view what’s trending in your area. Plus, you’re going to put it down having more knowledge then you did before you picked it up.  Bonus.

3. Create an assignment. The good guys over at Adorama, specifically Mike Wallace, tweets out a new #60minphotochallege on Fridays. What is a 60 minute challenge? You simply choose one or two objectives, any location, and go out and make pictures!  So you jump in your car, get on your bike or bus and you go downtown, or perhaps a new neighborhood and you shoot EVERYTHING that is green or in the shape of a triangle. It’s a pretty neat concept and really lets you try out new settings on your camera or experiment  a new technique! You might surprised at not only how much you find but what you come up with. What are you waiting for?

4. Recreate a scene. Watched a great new movie lately or an old favorite? How about a good book? Grab your camera, or sketchbook and start creating! If you have willing friends, ask them to come along. You might need some victims models to help you out and being social is never a bad thing.

5. Post on Flickr. As I mentioned before there are literally groups for everything under the sun on Flickr no matter what your craft. Add some of your photos or projects to groups and ask for honest feedback. No doubt you will run into someone might make a silly comment that hurts your feelings, but take it into consideration anyway and see if you can learn from it.

6. Re-visit “throw aways.” When I am out some where I usually take 100’s of pictures but most of them never see the light of day. However, I often go back and look through all of my folders because something that didn’t agree with me that day might be pure gold today. Since I’m always learning new techniques it’s always a fun to see if I can apply my new found knowledge to older stuff.

6. Start an ongoing series. No matter what your personal style is, pick a theme and stick with it for a while. This forces you to be creative and you will eventually start to see things that you missed out on before. If you are a nature photographer, and flowers are your thing, then go around shooting one type of flower or one color. Street Photographer? How about going downtown and just shooting people who are carrying briefcases or  talking on their cell phones. Seek and you shall find.

7. Escape your comfort zone. Forget your specialty. If you’ve mastered the art of photographing your cat, your kids, or yourself already.. then it’s time for a change.  Get out there and do something different! There are so many subjects just waiting you call. You might discover you are really good at finding tiny details that are interesting enough for macro photography, or maybe you have a creative eye for people. Just try what you’ve never done before for a while and inspire yourself.

8. Shoot in Black & White. In my opinion the best way to learn about light is to eliminate color. Concentrate on finding hard contrasts in lighting (it makes the best b&w images). Look for patterns, textures, and all of that good stuff…it really pops without color.

9. Buy a toy camera. I LOVE my Holga and and my husbands Diana. There is something about the grainy low-fi shots you get from a cheap film camera. If you don’t want to splurge, try a disposable one from the drug store. Shooting with film in a toy camera is fun because you never know what you are going to get, you don’t have any fancy settings or lenses to worry about, and if you are like me, the surprise factor of seeing your prints when you are done still makes your heart melt.

10. Enter a photo contest. Give your google-fu a work out and find one, grab your gear and run for the hills! You won’t have to worry about choosing your own theme. Most of the time you have to pay to enter but there are FREE contests too. If you don’t want to actually enter the contest, just use the them for your own personal goal. If you have some photographer friends, get them together and have your own contest.

11. Join a Photowalk. Chances are theres a group of other like minded individuals ready and waiting to go out on a group walk. These meet-ups not only give you a chance to network and make new friends, but also to learn from them. You don’t have to be a professional, or even a serious hobbiest to be welcomed into the group.

12. Pick up an art book. You can buy one or go to the library to check one out. You can find plenty of inspiration in the works of others and your choices are nearly endless. If you’re into travel photography for instance, grab a book of a country or state that you dream about visiting and then try and find similar scenes in your own city. If you’re lazy, (stop making that face at me!) the internet is your friend, just make sure you don’t get lost and wind up on facebook for hours!

13. Start shooting stock. If you’re reading my blog you’ve probably considered or are currently trying to sell your art. Check out the top sellers and see what’s being bought and mimic it at home. You don’t want to create the same image so do your own thing and submit it. Who knows you might just end up selling one. The thing about stock image sites is that there is a high rejection rate but don’t be discouraged, instead just understand it and keep trying. If you’re an artist,  they take illustrations and graphics too!

14. Google Image Search. Just type in anything. Places, colors, themes and the money will roll right in. I love typing in “Tropical” because I love the ocean, the beach, and all things salty – I guess that’s the Floridian in me. I promise that you will soon be out the door and out of that funk.

15. Visit a flea market. You never know what will turn up at a flea market and that’s what makes them great. Strange wares from all over the world and the sometimes odd people who sell them. You are bound to find something quirky or silly that you just can’t resist trying to come up with a great composition for the photo.

16. RTFM. Read the freaking manual! There is no better guide for your camera then that little booklet you probably still have sitting in the box. Flip through the pages and read the function instructions for your camera’s frilly features and try them out right then and there! Just pick any object in the room or something outside (you might have better luck with lighting) and just shoot it. Artists don’t fret, chances are your colored pencils didn’t come with a manual but you aren’t out of the woods yet..read a drawing book. Even if you are a master of your craft, sometimes going back to the basics does a world of difference.

16. Go to the Zoo. I admit it’s not one of the best ideas on this list. You don’t need to just go to look at the animals. Photographer? Try shooing the people instead of the animals. Tell a story with your photo about the visitors, shoot the laughter of children watching the monkeys or the zoo keeper educating the audience. Artist? What’s better than a live exotic beast to get your creative juices flowing? Try making up your own fantasy creatures.. What if a giraffe mated with an elephant?  Jeweler or knitter? Create pieces based on the animals in the zoo, or check out what everyone is wearing and brainstorm.  There are ideas everywhere. Now get to work!

17.  Use one Angle. Walk around your house and pick up 10 different objects and shoot all of them using the same angle. Stand on a chair and shoot everything from the top, or get on the floor and look up at it.

18. Shoot Everything. Go for a walk outside and literally snap pictures of everything you see. This is similar to giving your self an assignment but with out any limitations. Check out the cars in the parking lot, mailboxes, fire hydrants, signs, trees, just shoot everything and try and be creative about it.

19. Make a photobook.  I’m currently working on 3 volumes. Make a photobook of your last vacation, or your friends. It doesn’t matter what it is. With digital photography being so popular your photos may never see a piece of paper, you should change this. Your pictures look different when printed, and holding them in your hand changes the way you think about them. If you don’t want to have an expensive book printed, make a photo album or scrapbook instead.

20. Shoot at night. If you normally shoot, draw, or paint in the daylight hours then you are missing out on a whole different world. Night time brings a plethora of fun options for photography, but it can do the same for your paintings or drawings.


About PixelGrin

Photography. Punk Rock. Art. Travel.


3 thoughts on “How to: find inspiration – 21 ideas.

  1. Some very interesting gems in there. I will certianly keep a few in mind on those “down” days. A good read.

    Posted by alessandro ciapanna | 13 February, 2013, 7:02 pm


  1. Pingback: Featured Photographer, Angela Burtraw. « .PiXELGRiN. - 13 August, 2012

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Hi Hello I'm Jennifer Jackson. ...and the world is my oyster...



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